American Ghost: A Novel
Author: Janis Owens
Paperback Edition: 278 pages
Source: Personal Copy
Ms. Owens authentic tale plunges the reader into mystery, romance, local violence and cultural lessons in a fictional Florida community. The author’s Florida roots show. Blessed with an ear for dialect and dialogue, she is a born story-teller.
Her compelling story tells of a young woman in love with her home territory and at war with it, hoping to escape it, and not sure that is possible. When Jolie Hoyt falls for a visiting anthropology student Sam Lense, who is digging into a long ago murder and hanging as well as ethnic and tribal connections, factions of this isolated community in the interior of the West Panhandle near the Apalachicola River erupt in surprising violence.
Over time fantastic events unfold in an exciting and believable sequence. Ms. Owens knows her territory. She is a small-town West Florida local. She juggles the intricate connections of small town life with the outside world like a pro. Plot, language, characterizations and southern history come together and create an excellent and exciting read.
Jolie Hoyt is a loveable and gutsy heroine. If you like stories about family and community with the added excitement of love and mystery, this is a must read. I haven’t enjoyed a book this much in quite a while. I, too, was raised in a small town.
And, as Ms. Owens’ fellow author Bernie Schein said recently when he and Ms. Owens appeared alongside Pat Conroy at the Florida Heritage Book Festival in St. Augustine: “there are no secrets in small towns and then again there are. Everyone knows everything and there are some things only a few really know.” (something to that effect, anyway.) Few communities these days are as isolated as the one in Ms. Owens story, but they do exist and are part of the fabric of the South as well as other areas of the country.
If the background of this story grabs you as it did me, there are interesting extras in the paperback edition. These include: A Reading Group Guide, An Author’s Note about the story behind American Ghost, and southern recipes from the author’s cookbook, The Cracker Kitchen. Visit the author’s website at www.janisowens.com I love her blog. I hope to meet her in person at the Flagler Reads Together Kick-off on March 7 at the Flagler Library in Palm Coast.
I call the book an amazing read: mystery, history, romance and a bit of sociology thrown in to spice it up. But not for a moment, does this story ever slow down. Even after the reader has finished the last page, these characters and their home places continue to run through the readers consciousness.